Why text robots shouldn’t choose your records for you

Why text robots shouldn’t choose your records for you

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Finding music isn’t a sales formula, it’s a feeling.

This week Universal Music Group officially launched a Facebook messenger based, vinyl recommendation and delivery service linked to their online record shop of the same name, The Sound of Vinyl.

It works in the following fashion: accept the bot’s prompt to “get started” and away you go…

Praise the robot overlords! What a relief to know that SOV bot is there 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Just like every other online music shop already out there, because the internet never ‘closes’.

Your new virtual music BFF will then send you a vinyl release via messenger every day, which you can respond to in four ways: Yes, Like, Dislike, or Own.

Respond with a yes, surrender your credit card details to Facebook, and the record will be delivered to your address within 5-7 working days.

Over time, this bot will build a “taste profile” for you, delivering that exact “limited edition, collectors edition and recommended release” you always wanted.

“It really is your daily fix to all things music and vinyl!” says SOV.

Gone will be the days when you have to put up with the hassle (read: pleasure) of buying records. In its glorious place comes SOV to serve up your new favourite thing, which sounds achingly similar to your other new favourite things, on a virtual platter.

But SOV isn’t an unbiased music shop, representing all labels equally. It’s an online front for Universal to primarily pedal its own wares.

SOV’s technology was created by MessageYes, formerly known as ReplyYes, who have essentially built a responsive text robot designed to maximise sales based on your personal taste, using Artificial Intelligence technology.

“MessageYes is a conversational commerce platform. It has been architected to support endless numbers of stores (channels), all utilizing lightweight artificial intelligence (AI), product recommendation algorithms, in-message payment processing, and easy integration with existing order and fulfilment management systems,” says the company’s website.

“Our goal is to provide brands and retailers with a broad and flexible mobile messaging commerce platform that enables ongoing direct-to- consumer engagement, transactions and experiences.”

It is the same company who created text-based vinyl recommendation service The Edit, whose website now redirects to SOV’s storefront.

These music tips will undoubtedly weigh heavy on pushing Universal’s own catalogue, alongside releases from other labels “exclusively” available via the site. It’s unclear how or why these records will be selected.

Using technology to find a £10 copy of a limited test pressing you’ve been sweating all year that’s rarer than unicorn tears, or to be alerted about upcoming releases so you’re poised and ready to purchase a 12″ the nanosecond it’s available – these are beautiful things.

The sharing of music that might not have been heard otherwise, or the ability for little-known music to find audiences around the world – these are also beautiful things, facilitated by the wonders of modern digital communication.

But masquerading a major label’s new robot-powered record website as a one-stop shop for music and vinyl is far more objectionable, especially when it’s delivered via the medium of Facebook, a company notorious for tracking its users every move in order to monetise their behaviour.

This isn’t your daily fix for all things music and vinyl, it’s an attempt to computerise that which makes music so beautifully unquantifiable: the freedom to discover, choose and share records that you never thought you’d like.

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